Struggling Family Finds Love in 'Grapes'

Fullerton College Hornet  - Nicole Bouchard - Friday, May 7th, 1993
from left, 'Grapes of Wrath' cast members: Mary Wilson, Ed Bucsko, Bonnie Nordquist, Andrew Pinon,Trace Larson, Adam D. Clark, Kreg Donohoe, Austin Lawrence, Darni Kuhns, Stephen Agosto, Shayna Sorbel, and Jason Hargrave.

Streaming tears and emotions of both sorrow and joy will be prevalent in the audience as the theater season closes with a tale of struggle, survival, and growth of the human spirit

Directed by Bob Jensen, "Grapes of Wrath", the last performance of the semester, will run May 7-14 in the Bronwyn Dodson Theater. ·

Based on a novel by John Steinbeck, "GrapesofWrath" reveals the struggles of the Joad family during the Dust Bowl era as they move from their home in Oklahoma and journey to a new home in California.

Concentrating on humanitarian themes, "Grapes of Wrath" shows the growth of characters and softening of their hearts to mankind. As their lives are changed in a foreign area, the Joad family members become much stronger people. Ma Joad is the core of the family and the play. It is her heart, particularly, which softens the most.

''The play is most attractive to me personally because it's about the heart of the people," said Jensen. "One character says to another, "She frightens me because her heart is so large."

The play, which has 41 cast members, centers around the actors which play the Joad family. Ma Joad is played by Mary Wilson, Pa Joad by Troce Larson, young protagonist Thorn Joad is played by Adam Clark, Reverend Jim Casy by Kreg Donohoe and Rosa Sharon is .played by Darri Kuhns.

"Grapes of Wrath" was chosen for many reasons, mainly to help balance the productions already performed in the Theater Department throughout the year.

"It had just been released for amateur rights and there were a large number of good roles in it," said Jensen.

Jensen feels that the messages in "Grapes of Wrath" apply to living situations and social conflicts that Californians face every day.

Jensen said, ''The messages are still very relevant in a state that's undergoing such demographic change.

"Every day there are thousands of immigrants landing in California. Issues and conflicts in the play are mirrored in what's going on today."

Based in the heartland of California, "Grapes of Wrath" is a play that is a learning ·experience as well as a directing experience for Jensen.

"It's a personal journey for me because I don't know much about California," Jensen said.

The Californian setting is created in the theater by a variety of means. There is a real river that flows across stage, rain, and many other realistic props such as an old beat-up truck.

"I'm so involved in the play and I'm not done with it yet so l can't stand back and pick my favorite aspect Bu l have a lot of fun with the truck," said Jensen.

Borrowed or rented from other schools, some of the scenery and other costumes are rustic outfits and distressed clothing to magnify the tough times the family is going through.

Hard work was put into the setting, which' will be another unique and exciting aspect of the play.

"The setting was built in a large stage floor in a room that caves in. Set pieces and stage objects move across the floor and a great deal of scenery is left to the imagination of the audience," said Jensen.

According to Jensen, with the way the Bronwyn Dodson Theater is set up and the way it was fixed by the crew, the audience is up close and surrounded by the play. Jensen feels the way things have been set up will give an intimate feeling to the "Grapes of Wrath."

''The Bronwyn Dodson has flexible theater space. The seating and setting is different based on the needs of the play. This one puts the audience in very close proximity of the play," said Jensen.

Live music includes pieces by Woody Guthrie and other folk singers of the time period. In addition, ten vocalists will sing throughout "Grapes of Wrath."

With all of these portions of the show to take in account, Jensen feels the greatest challenge was the scale of the show.

"It is so. big, it tests all of our resources- human, financial, and time," he said.

"It's also a great challenge to fit such a big play in such a small theater. But it's my hope that the intimacy of the theater will make the experience of the audience more personal," said Jensen.

The main theme is a personal experience for all that understand its true meaning.

Jensen said, "I guess the first step towards understanding people who are different from you is the softening of the heart

"Ma load's heart opens up to the world. Her love is tough love, not permissive love. The main idea here is that we need to soften our hearts."